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Holiday Safety Tips ~ [Issue 1205-1]  Wellness Weekly
 Dec 06, 2005 13:06 PST 


The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has
issued various safety tips for holiday decorations. Holiday
decorations, like candles, lights and Christmas trees, add a joyous
and festive mood to the holiday season. But when these decorations
are not used properly, they can cause fires, injuries, and death.

Each year, hospital emergency rooms treat about 12,500 people for
falls, cuts, shocks, and burns due to incidents involving faulty
holiday lights, dried-out Christmas trees and other holiday
decorations. To help prevent these injuries, CPSC monitors holiday
lights and other decorations sold at stores and on the Internet. CPSC
works with the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection to identify
and detain unsafe holiday light sets posing fire risks from being
distributed in the United States.

Christmas trees are involved in about 300 fires annually, resulting
in 10 deaths, 30 injuries and an average of about $10 million in
property damage and loss. In addition, there are more than 13,000
candle-related fires each year, which result in 140 deaths and $205
million in property loss.

"The flickering light of candles can add beauty and tradition to the
holidays," said CPSC Chairman Stratton. "However, when left
unattended or within a child's reach, burning candles can turn your
celebration into tragedy. Following a few simple safety tips can help
prevent holiday decoration-related fires."

CPSC suggests following these tips to make your holiday a safe one.


1. When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label "Fire
Resistant." Although this label does not mean the tree will not catch
fire, it does indicate the tree is more resistant to burning.
2. When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree is
green, needles are hard to pull from branches and do not break when
bent between your fingers. The trunk butt of a fresh tree is sticky
with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose
many needles.
3. When setting up a tree at home, place it away from fireplaces and
radiators. Because heated rooms dry live trees out rapidly, be sure
to keep the stand filled with water. Place the tree out of the way of
traffic and do not block doorways.


1. Indoors or outside, use only lights that have been tested for
safety by a recognized testing laboratory, such as UL or ETL. This
indicates conformance with safety standards. Use only lights that
have plugs containing fuses.
2. Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked
sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Throw out
damaged sets. Always replace burned-out bulbs promptly with the same
wattage bulbs.
3. If using an extension cord, make sure it is rated for the intended
4. Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become
charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a
branch could be electrocuted.
5. Before using lights outdoors, check labels to be sure they have
been certified for outdoor use.
6. Stay away from power or feeder lines leading from utility poles
into older homes.
7. Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house walls, or other
firm supports to protect the lights from wind damage. Use only
insulated staples (not nails or tacks) to hold strings in place. Or,
run strings of lights through hooks (available at hardware stores).
8. Turn off all holiday lights when you go to bed or leave the house.
The lights could short out and start a fire.
9. Use caution when removing outdoor holiday lights. Never pull or
tug on lights - this could cause stress on the connections that could
create a fire hazard.
10. Outdoor electric lights and decorations should be plugged into
circuits protected by ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) to
protect against electric shock. Portable outdoor GFCIs can be
purchased where electrical supplies are sold. GFCIs can also be
installed permanently to household circuits by a qualified electrician.

Candles and Other Decorations:

1. Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a
tree. Choose tinsel or artificial icicles of plastic or nonleaded
metals. Leaded materials are hazardous if ingested by children.
2. Keep burning candles within sight.
3. Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens.
Always use non-flammable holders, and place candles out of reach of
children and pets.
4. In homes with small children, take special care to avoid sharp or
breakable decorations, keep trimmings with small removable parts out
of the reach of children who could swallow or inhale small pieces,
and avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a
child to eat them.
5. To avoid eye and skin irritation, wear gloves when decorating with
spun glass "angel hair."
6. To avoid lung irritation, follow container directions carefully
while decorating with artificial snow sprays.


1. Use care with "fire salts," which produce colored flames when
thrown on wood fires. They contain heavy metals that, if eaten, can
cause intense gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting. Keep them
away from children.
2. Do not burn wrapping papers in the fireplace. Wrappings can ignite
suddenly and burn intensely, resulting in a flash fire.
3. Place a screen around your fireplace to prevent sparks from
igniting nearby flammable materials.
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